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Lauren Beukes

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Link Love: Why SF Writers Can’t Win, Star Trek Manuals for Writing & Vooks

Some great reading I picked up today:

1. Salon.com on Vooks (video books) cos, you know, YouTube and all that are killing literature! And the only way to win is to fight back with ill-conceived bastard hybrids: http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2009/10/06/vooks/

...The unfortunately named vooks consist of text and video clips produced in concert to form integrated works. You can read/watch them with a Web browser, but they’re primarily intended for mobile devices like the iPhone and meant to win over those people you see on the subway or in airports frantically pounding their thumbs through endless rounds of Frogger instead of reading a David Baldacci novel. The spectacle of people not reading in public has become a motivating trauma for many publishing executives of late. Brian Tart, publisher of Dutton Books, told the Times’ Motoko Rich, “You see people watching these three-minute YouTube videos and using social networks, and there is an opportunity here to bring in more people who might have thought they were into the new media world.”

And sums up with:

Somehow, the old-school format of Stephenie Meyer’s vampire romance series hasn’t alienated the vast army of Twi-hards, most of whom, by the way, qualify as digital natives, the generation who supposedly have no patience for print. These are also the same kids who buried themselves in 500-page Harry Potter novels for entire weekends not long ago. Some even claim to find printed books a welcome break from staring at screens all day.


2. Why Science Fiction Authors Just Can’t Win cos, you know, Orwell and Vonnegut and Dick and Atwood and Ballard aren’t really science fiction. They couldn’t be. Because, well, science fiction is crap. http://sffmedia.com/books/science-fiction-books/417-why-science-fiction-authors-just-cant-win.html

…Just keep insisting that everything science fiction is tacky, silly and sad and ridicule its creators at every opportunity. Disown the genre as emphatically and publicly as possible. As a writer there are tremendous advantages to avoiding the label science fiction, and Margret Atwood has successfully done that throughout her career and gained literary credibility in exchange.

In her defence, Atwood’s apparent fear that once the label “science fiction” is attached to a novel the literary establishment will treat it differently seems well founded.

“I am going to stick my neck out and just say it,” begins Sven Birkerts’ review of Atwood’s science fiction novel, the Oryx and Crake, “science fiction will never be Literature with a capital ‘L’” (New York Times, 18 May, 2003).


3. Plot Advice from a Star Trek Role-Playing Manual. Neatest narrative structure guide I’ve seen in a long time as contemplated by Dan Wells, author of I Am Not A Serial Killer, cos you know, Spock would totally take that Robert McKee guy. http://www.fearfulsymmetry.net/

I think that Roleplaying Game supplements have some of the best story structure advice I’ve ever read… because the games themselves are based on the idea of storytelling; teaching you how to tell good stories is, in a sense, the very product they’re selling.

I’ve always known this, but it didn’t occur to me until recently just how good some of this RPG advice is, and how much I rely on it. A week or so ago someone asked me what my favorite “story structure” book was, presumably hoping to have some kind of deep conversation about, I don’t know, Robert McKee or Orson Scott Card. I thought about it, determined to give the best answer I could, and realized that the only “structure” book I keep next to my desk is an RPG supplement: the Star Trek Roleplaying Game Narrator’s Guide by Decipher.

I love this book; I should probably put together a workshop or something for a convention. Put simply, it’s a twist on 3-act format with seven specific points: hook, plot turn 1, pinch, midpoint, pinch, plot turn 2, and resolution.


 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://twitter.com/liamkruger" rel="nofollow">liamkruger</a>
    liamkruger
    October 7th, 2009 @19:20 #
     
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    Only vaguely on-topic (sorry), but since you're linking:

    'Gaiman talks vampires at Entertainment Weekly'
    http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20301186,00.html

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  • <a href="http://twitter.com/liamkruger" rel="nofollow">liamkruger</a>
    liamkruger
    October 7th, 2009 @19:25 #
     
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    Gah bad link sorry. There's an abbreviated interview up at

    http://shelf-life.ew.com/2009/07/31/neil-gaiman-why-vampires-should-go-back-underground/

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    October 7th, 2009 @20:55 #
     
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    These are fun! I have to say I find the idea of Vooks very vooky. I mean spooky. God forbid someone else's image should intrude on my imagination when I'm travelling on my book-magic-carpet.

    The SF snobs need a smack. Have they not read David Mitchell? What about Ray Bradbury? I read Fahrenheit 451 in my early teens, and found it absolutely seminal as an allegory of subversion. Made me passionately anti-censorship/ state control -- had far more impact than 1984 or Animal Farm, which I found too obvious.

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  • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    October 8th, 2009 @06:20 #
     
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    Except Ray Bradbury himself says Fahrenheit 451 is NOT about censorship. It's about the evils of TV. Want to talk about authorial intent?

    http://www.laweekly.com/2007-05-31/news/ray-bradbury-fahrenheit-451-misinterpreted/

    "Fahrenheit 451 is not, [Bradbury] says firmly, a story about government censorship. Nor was it a response to Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose investigations had already instilled fear and stifled the creativity of thousands.

    This, despite the fact that reviews, critiques and essays over the decades say that is precisely what it is all about. Even Bradbury’s authorized biographer, Sam Weller, in The Bradbury Chronicles, refers to Fahrenheit 451 as a book about censorship.

    Bradbury, a man living in the creative and industrial center of reality TV and one-hour dramas, says it is, in fact, a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature...

    ...“Useless,” Bradbury says. “They stuff you with so much useless information, you feel full.” He bristles when others tell him what his stories mean, and once walked out of a class at UCLA where students insisted his book was about government censorship. He’s now bucking the widespread conventional wisdom with a video clip on his Web site (http://www.raybradbury.com/at_home_clips.html), titled “Bradbury on censorship/television.”

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    October 8th, 2009 @10:51 #
     
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    Lauren, that's fascinating (esp re the Great Postmodernist Truth That The Author Is Dead Even If He/She Is Alive And Very Very Cross About What Postmodernists Say). Even more fascinating is that the anti-TV message is what I took away as well. My folks banned TV from our home (sorry, I know you've all heard it before), and round about the age of of rebellion I read this super-cool book that said TV was waaaaaay bad, and I subsequently wouldn't let one in my house until I was 36 (cricket was my fatal weakness).

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