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Sunday Links, February 16, 2014

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tale for the time beingThe winners of the 2014 Kitschie Awards have been announced.

The finalists for the Aurealis Awards have been announced, celebrating Australian speculative fiction. Due the miracle of epublishing, a substantial number of these books are available to American audiences.

How is one to define “sword and sorcery,” a subset of fantasy, for the unlucky folks who have never encountered it before? Paul Kemp explains, with examples and recommendations.

The Edible WomanIf sword and sorcery isn’t your thing, you could read one of the top ten books about getting eaten.

Is the literary world elitist? Laura Miller wants to know if an author who uses the word “crepuscular” is to be criticized because not every potential reader of her book or essay will know it. She doesn’t think so. Neither do I. But it’s rather a more complex question than that, apparently, and readers become angry when they feel ignorant, and they feel ignorant if they have to look up a word. I’ve always thought that was part of the fun of reading — learning new words, new facts, new writing techniques, new ways of looking at things — but apparently not everyone agrees. Really, must every book be the equivalent of pizza, or can we sometimes dive into a ten-course tasting meal?

the recognitionsOn the other end of the spectrum, there are those readers who intentionally try to make other readers feel ignorant and make themselves look unbearably hip. It’s a silly college trick, but I’ve seen it done by professors, too — or, indeed, by anyone who feels an insatiable need to name check the mighty and the obscure to impress an audience. There’s a fine line between knowing your stuff and being able to spread the word, and being utterly obnoxious about it.

frank conroyEric Bennett argues at length in the Chronicle of Higher Education that the Iowa Writers’ Workshop has flattened American literature into only a few categories. Perhaps that arises from its origins as a tool against communism — a CIA project. It seems the history of that Workshop is a lot more colorful than anyone might think.

two culturesAnother lengthy article about literary culture postulates that there are two of them now: the one that comes from writing workshops (and, more generally, from academe) and one that comes from New York, the center of the American publishing world. “Each culture has its own canonical works and heroic figures; each has its own logic of social and professional advancement,” writes Chad Harbach. “Each affords its members certain aesthetic and personal freedoms while restricting others; each exerts its own subtle but powerful pressures on the work being produced.” It’s an interesting thesis.

graphHugh Howey goes into considerable detail in discussing what authors actually earn, and comparing the earnings of those published in traditional publishing and those who self-publish. It’s a fascinating report for those who are interested in the business, not just the creativity, of writing.

Another viewpoint on the financial aspect of self-publishing demonstrates a good deal more anger at traditional publishers. I wonder if one of the benefits of the self-publishing revolution will be that the traditional publishers will have to up their game, and actually start editing and proofreading, not to mention marketing? Or will this revolution simply allow the Big 5 to cherry pick a few big writers and concentrate their resources there, without bothering to publish anything that isn’t going to be huge? Will midlist writers be their own agents, publicists, editors and proofreaders to an even greater extent than they must be today?

lackingtonsLackingtons is a new online literary magazine publishing speculative fiction and art. They’re looking for “stylized prose,” “prose poetry,” they say, which sounds interesting. It’s free to read online, or you can download a .pdf for only $2.99. I’ve not had a chance to read the inaugural issue yet, but I’m eager to do so.

Oh, dear. Sometimes writers really need to back away from the Twitter machine. Complex issues don’t take well to a 140-character medium, and no matter how good a writer you are, you can’t condense the entire Woody Allen mess into that little space.

procrastinationI am a world class procrastinator. Apparently that means I should be a writer, because they procrastinate a lot — or so says Megan McArdle in this month’s Atlantic.

We may already be past Valentine’s Day, but there’s no reason why that should keep you from looking for a sweetheart. Consider a bookworm, who has many advantages as a date, a love, a spouse, not the least of which is that we won’t smother you.

If you’re watching “True Detective” but you don’t know the work of a writer named Robert W. Chambers, you’re missing out on an important reference. I’m pleased to say I caught this one, and brought up “The King In Yellow” on my Kindle to get myself fully oriented. It’s free for the Kindle at Amazon, if you’d like to check it out.

GoldfingerMore television that I can’t resist sharing here: what if Doctor Who were American? Me, I’d be racing out to get any and all episodes featuring Gene Wilder’s Doctor. Wouldn’t that be absolutely perfect casting?

Art made from books seems like a growing commodity these days. Terry Border fashions books into objects that act out their plots. Clever stuff.

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