Tag Archives | fantasy

Genre is a community, not a ghetto (Mslexia guest blog)

My latest blog about genre-writing is up at Mslexia. Here’s an excerpt – click here for the full read. And I do hope you like the zebra photo. I aim to serve.

No one wants to be pigeonholed. I just want to write books so wonderful that everyone loves them, all over the world. Even people who don’t normally read will adore what I write and praise me. Loudly. You want the same thing, right?

With that in mind, identifying yourself as a genre writer and distinguishing yourself from the mainstream – isn’t that cutting yourself off, selling yourself short?

I don’t think so. Far from being limiting, I have found more support, useful advice and a stronger sense of my writing identity since I defined myself as a fantasy writer. Here’s how it worked for me, and while my references and resources are particularly about Sci-Fi/Fantasy, I hope that some of this will be useful to those writing in other genres, too.

I hope you’ll read the full post here.

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Zoo City review

Zoo City Cover Lauren Beukes Angry Robot

How to enjoy book awards without having to actually write a novel

(A review of Zoo City, by Lauren Beukes)

There are three ways to gain pleasure from book awards (assuming that you are not one of the nominees yourself; if you are, congrats. Nice to see you here).

One is to have read all the books on the shortlist and therefore hold a valid opinion about which one is best. This never happens. Ever. Even the judges have to pull all-nighters skim-reading and pretend they’d read them ages ago.

Scenario Two is much more achievable: To have read at least one of the nominated books, and thus be allowed to hold forth, loudly, about how the one you bothered to buy should totally win the award in question (or, was such a pile of crap that it should never have been nominated).

Scenario Three is the nicest of all: To see a book you genuinely loved on the list, and for that book to actually win. That’s what happened to me when Zoo City won the Arthur C Clarke Award last year, and I got to feel smug and proud despite having had nothing to do with the book. You hear that? A way to feel smug and proud without having to do anything except read a book. Don’t tell me you’re not impressed by that.

Right now, with the nominee list for the 2012 Arthur C Clarke Award not yet announced, having an opinion about last year’s winner is the best you can do. So, get thee to a bookshop and swot up fast. Here are some of my favourite things about Beuke’s book.

1 The concept of being animalled. In Beuke’s world, criminals have a permanent reminder of their crime, an animal who is linked to them for life. The tether between person and animal is strong, and separation is unbearable. It’s a cool, visual conceit, and something that’s not vampires. (Or werewolves). Something original. Phew.

Now that those with a less than pristine past can be identified with just a glance, the animalled are quickly ostracised. Let’s face it, excluding people who are different is something humans have always been good at. The suburbs become gated communities, and the Zoo City of the title is slang for where the cons and their critters reside.

2 Urban grittiness. I like urban fantasy when it shows me streets that are real. Streets that have dirt and junkies on them, litter and blood. When she came out of prison with a Sloth on her shoulders, no one would rent Zinzi a place anywhere nice, and in fact she kinda liked the broken down tenement she found in the Zoo City ghetto. It was dirty, and crowded, and noisy – just like prison. The scenes in the downtown slums are easy to visualise and are always believable, uncomfortably so. The detail makes the magic and the noir elements feel very real.

3 Zinzi December. What a name, what a woman. Here’s a female lead, written by a female author, winning a SF prize in a year where everyone shouted a lot (a lot) about there being a lack of female SF authors these days. Zinzi is the kind of heroine I like – cynical, clever, with healthy disregard for authority. Her downward spiral is in the spotlight, not her love life. No, she’s not proud of what she’s done, or what she does now. And nor should she be. She stays away from the drugs these days, but is involved in some dodgy internet scams to pay the bills and has no legit alternatives to turn to instead.

4 The pop culture. Like the slums, Lauren gets this right. Remember I said there were no legit alternatives for Zinzi? Well, what if she uses her natural talent to help out some bad people, and earns enough to stop hustling for a while? People with animals also have a magical talent, a shavi, and Zinzi’s talent is finding lost things. Keys, love letters, toys, jewellery. She could find bigger stuff, yes, but she prefers to stick to the easy stuff. Less trouble that way. She advertises her services to find things people have lost, and attracts the attention of a pop mogul who’s lost his teen singer. She should know better than to get involved – the darkness surrounding the case is palpable – but the money and the armed heavies make it hard to walk away.

So she takes the job, to find a lost teen idol, a cookie-cutter cutie who is adored for her innocent image. She’s a beauty, an angel, a role model. And she needs to be found before the media discovers her disappearance and infers anything sordid. The gossip magazine culture and the fake saccharine pop stars are perfectly done, and excerpts from YouTube style web pages (complete with comments), song lyrics and tabloid columns are slipped neatly between the chapters.

Bonus Scenario Four: being able to say that none of this year’s list are as good as last year’s winner. Read this now and you still have a chance to enjoy this scenario.

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dragons (Mslexia Guest Post)

My first post is up at the Mslexia blog – w00t! It’s the first of six pieces about writing Fantasy (and the SF/F genre in general). Mslexia is a quarterly magazine aimed at women writers, and it’s my absolute favourite writing-type periodical, so I am very chuffed to be guest blogging for them. Come on over and read my piece, then check out the rest of the site if you haven’t heard of them before.  Excerpt follows.

From the Mslexia Blog

I didn’t mean to write ‘genre’. I hadn’t even considered it – but when I joined my local writing class, every story I told had something supernatural in it. Magic and myth, alternative histories, witches and other worlds. What was happening to me? I hadn’t read anything like that since my teens, so was surprised to find myself writing it now.

I was reading serious novels those days; classics, Booker Prize winners, modern stories about India and child abuse. Somehow I’d changed from the girl who devoured every book in the library’s ‘Science Fiction’ section (where anything vaguely Asimov, McCaffrey or Herbert was shelved), stopped being the girl who stalked Terry Pratchett til he remembered my name*. I’d become a reading snob, and hadn’t even noticed.

Article continues. . .

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Advent Thanksgiving: Why I love Twitter

serenity joss whedon

My Advent Thanksgiving series is a series of posts about stuff I liked in 2011. Music, books, tv, games, handsome gentlemen – you get the idea.

Imaginary friends (& Joss Whedon)

I had a Twitter account last year, but this is the year that I finally ‘got it’. The biggest change came when I was watching Serenity on tv and couldn’t help but ecstatically tweet some lines from the film. Other people replied. People I didn’t know! What?

Until this point I was following some names I knew from blogs, a handful of comedians, the Guardian’s books feed and the few web-friendly mates I had who also had Twitter accounts. I didn’t really know how to find anyone else. But one search for #Serenity brought up loads of other people who were also watching the film and spreading the Whedon love. I said hello. They said hello back, and we all swooned over Nathan Fillion. This was fun!

I searched for #Whedon, #Buffy and #Firefly and discovered hordes more people with similar tastes as me. This wasn’t an exercise in getting more followers, this was me falling down the rabbit hole and finding twitter streams full of links and jokes that led me to more people, more sites, more blogs. Twitter started to be a whole lot more fun.

Never bored

I expanded my search and started finding people who were into #scifi, #fantasy, pop culture and music. Lots of them, all with something to say. Now all I have to do if I’m bored (or procrastinating) is open up Twitter and my imaginary friends suggest pages and pages of content from all over the web that I can spend all day reading if I’m not strict with myself.

Writing opportunities

The 3 main things I’ve been writing this year (apart from my novel) have been reviews for Slacker Heroes, The British Fantasy Society and my blog. None of these would have happened without Twitter. It was a tweet from @BritFantasySoc that told me they were looking for book reviewers. And a day or so after I watched Serenity with my gang of new friends, Jen from @Slackerheroes tweeted that she was looking for a book reviewer for her site. I’d found her on Twitter because she loves Joss Whedon possibly even more than me. I replied, she said yes, and now I love being part of her team. And my blog? I have no idea how I would let people know about it without Twitter. I might have still been writing for it, but no one would have known. How could they?

If you don’t ‘get’ Twitter yet, try searching for things you are interested in. Someone else will definitely like the same stuff as you, and if you’re lucky they are as interesting, funny and friendly as they people I’ve met online. Then have a look at who they follow, and who follows them. Say hello. Be nice. Have fun. Add me.

count von count sesame street

Just because the Count loves to count, doesn't mean you have to.

Stop counting

It’s not a game of numbers – Twitter will only ever be a chore if you think that it matters how many followers you have, or someone else has. It’s about finding people who also think the cancellation of Eureka is enough of A Bad Thing to tweet about it. Who are as excited as you about baking bread, or knitting. Who always find funny Star Wars articles and share them, so you don’t have to go looking. Who can recommend books you might like, and warn you away from the bad ones. You know how Facebook and Amazon are always trying to suggest things or people you might like, but get it so embarrassingly wrong? Your Twitter feed can be an auto-suggest that works, a constantly updating list of things you will like, hand picked for you by people who like those things too. Pretty cool, huh?

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