Sunday Links, April 21, 2013

The longlist for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award for 2013 has been announced. I could happily spend the rest of the year just reading books on that list.

Commonwealth PrizeThe shortlist for the Commonwealth Book Prize for 2013 has been announced. This prize is awarded for works written in five geographic regions: Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, Caribbean, and the Pacific. The idea is to give writers in those regions, which have a less established publishing infrastructure, a chance to compete with those in countries where there are more opportunities. There isn’t a book on the list that I’ve heard of, but there are plenty that sound like they would be well worth my time.

The finalists for the 2013 Prometheus Award have been named. The award comes from the Libertarian Society, which makes its award for the book that is the most pro-freedom.

The 2013 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award shortlist has been announced.

Publishers Weekly offers its list of the best books coming this summer, divided by genre. There isn’t a single book on the lists of the genres I read that doesn’t look delicious to me.

Granta’s listing of the best writers under 40 inspired Damien Walter to put together his own list of the best young writers of speculative fiction. Using this list as a guide for your summer reading would take you to lots of strange and wonderful places.

edward cullen's ashesI am thoroughly fed up with reading about vampires. Ever since Anne Rice wrote Interview with the Vampire in 1976, we’ve been flooded with tales of the undead, and they’ve become more lovable and shiny until we wound up with the shiny Edward Cullen. But along the way, some really good writing happened, with really good ideas. This list of the ten best neglected vampire novels looks to be full of good stuff. I’ve read two of the novels and found them to be excellent, which encourages me to read the others. (Image from the website Polish the Stars.)

Modern Broad offers a discussion of how best to write a horror short story. The theory is that a “turn” in the plot — not a “twist,” which the author rejects as “gimmicky” — makes a story memorable.

And speaking of horror: horror writer extraordinaire Laird Barron has put together a list of horror writers that you’ll want to check out if you enjoy this genre. And don’t forget Barron’s own stuff; he writes some of the most horrifying stories I’ve ever read, stories that make your average ghost story seem like a walk in the park. I’m still haunted by a number of his stories, and particularly images that are so well described that I can call them up at a moment’s notice. Not that I’d want to, mind you.

I’ve heard of retronyms, but contronyms? This may be a new coinage: a word for words that mean one thing and, at the same time, its opposite. “Cleave” may be my favorite of the 14 words discussed in the linked article.

It’s no mystery that I would dearly love to return to school and obtain a doctorate in English. Katie Roiphe writes about how such a degree has enriched her life. Maybe one day. . . .

Neil GaimanNeil Gaiman urges publishers to experiment, even if that means they’re going to make mistakes. “Amazon, Google and all of those things probably aren’t the enemy. The enemy right now is simply refusing to understand that the world is changing,” he said. It reminds me of that old advice to executives: not taking action is the only real mistake there is. You can fix it if you’ve done the wrong thing, but catching up to where the world has gone while you were standing still is much more difficult.

Scott TurowScott Turow thinks we’re witnessing the slow death of the American author. It’s not just technology that’s at fault; publishers are taking advantage of the e-book revolution to pay authors about half the royalties they paid previously. Pirating compounds the problem dramatically. Will we shortly have a society in which anyone who writes a book does so solely for love, and not at all for money? And what happens to American literature when that’s the case? TechDirt vehemently disagrees with Turow, in a lengthy essay that finds that Turow gets his facts wrong. Who do you believe?

And if those pieces interest you, you’ll also want to read this interview with Jason Merkoski, a leader of the team that build the first Kindle. He’s not so sure that e-books are all they’re cracked up to be. But he also says that in 20 years physical books will be as rare as LPs are now. I sure hope he’s wrong.

Those e-books will get you if you don’t watch out, though. David Bauer writes about the day he found himself swiping up on a page of a physical book, subconsciously expecting the text to move up.

Science seems to indicate that readers experience physical books and reading from a screen very differently — and that the mind better retains that which is read in the form of paper instead of mere electrons. Will this change as our reading shifts more to screens? I find this to be fairly scary stuff.

Underland PressIn the last Sunday Links, I gave you a few references to the Night Shade Books controversy; the publisher is quickly approaching bankruptcy, and has found a couple of publishers to buy its assets instead — but at a significant cost to the authors. Now Skyhorse and Start have bent somewhat to the pressure and announced a bit of a better deal for the authors. Interestingly, Skyhorse and Start are also purchasing Underland Press, a very fine horror publisher.

Well, it was bound to happen: Amazon has given up on books altogether, and has purchased its customers’ ability to read. That’s a bit of satire that cuts awfully close to the bone.

This short film entitled “The Last Bookshop” might tickle your fancy.

Stuttgart LibraryLitReactor offers photographs of the 10 weirdest and most wonderful libraries in the world. The Stuttgart City library is my favorite; all that white with all the color coming from the books is absolutely gorgeous. What’s yours?

Okay, I admit that this doesn’t seem to have anything to do with books or reading on the face of it. But this collection of photographs of the 33 most beautiful abandoned places in the world is likely to give any writer a jolt of imagination. The house with sand pouring through it, for instance. Or the deteriorating house on Holland Island with all the birds roosting on it. I particularly love the abandoned hotel in Colombia, which looks utterly haunted to me. Spend some time with these and see if your own imagination isn’t awakened.

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