Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Reading and Writing (but no arithmetic today)

Does anyone even recognize that reference in my title, or is that one of those obscure things I picked up from having an elderly father?

Hrm. I meant to make another playlist for you yesterday, but forgot. Ah well, I'm thinking of moving that to another day of the week, as I've recently discovered "Teaser Tuesday," when writers post little snippets of their writing to titillate others. I haven't decided, though, whether I'll be posting my writing and writing-related posts on this blog, or making another one to keep things more organized. It's not really a pressing question right now, as no one really reads this blog.

Speaking of writing, I'd like to recommend a book I've recently read on the subject. I always kind of considered books on writing to be amateur and thus avoided them, but I stumbled onto How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card in our local branch of the library and ended up enjoying it so much that I recently purchased a copy of it on Amazon (for a penny, of course).

This one initially caught my eye because of the author. I've read what is probably his most notable work, the sci-fi classic Ender's Game, and it is truly a brilliant book. He's had great success as an author, but I didn't pick up How to Write to learn how to be successful - if you know me, you know that popular success is not my goal in writing. No, I picked this book up to see if the knowledge contained within could teach me more about science fiction and what, other than content, makes it different from other fiction, and I also wanted to see if it could help me give my own writing some direction.

I wasn't disappointed. Card knows his stuff when it comes to writing, and he was dedicated to making sure that he didn't digress into generalizations about all genres, but stayed specifically on the subject of speculative writing. One of the reasons I bought the book for my own library is because there is so much useful information in it, that I am certain I will need a copy to refer back to at my leisure. Granted, some of the publication information is a bit out-dated, given that this book is a good twenty years old, but that is a relatively small portion of book as a whole and doesn't dim the quality of the rest of the book. The only thing really missing from this book is a discussion of cyberpunk writing, but as that sub-genre didn't gain popularity until recently, it isn't surprising that he doesn't address it.

What I love most about this book, though, is that it is a great read for readers as well as writers. It quite literally changes the way you read and makes you more aware of the devices at work behind the story. If you are at all interested in a more Formalist approach to literature and not simply in it for a good story, I would recommend you check this book out. You may find yourself understanding why certain books are more popular and better-written than others.

So, kudos, Orson Scott Card. Your nonfiction rocks just as much as your fiction does.

Following in that trend, I've picked up Stephen King's On Writing from the library. To be honest, I've never actually read any Stephen King, as I'm not much of a horror reader, but if my adventure in On Writing goes well, I may be tempted to pick up one of his fiction books and see what all the fuss is about. Feel free to drop suggestions into a comment and send them my way if there is a particular novel you feel would be a good one to start with (or just your favorite in general).

As for fiction reading, I'm still casually strolling through Gene Wolfe's The Knight. Poor thing has been neglected as of late, as I've been pouring most of my reading time into school and nonfiction. It will get some love soon, though.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Craft of Late

Let's take a look at a few of the recent additions to my closet, shall we?

First off, in only three or four days of leisurely knitting, I finished up the River Tam (linked to the Ravelry pattern page for those of you interested in knitting it or seeing the original).

This beret was knit using Yarn Bee Rainbow Wool in the Seastorm colorway that I picked up at Hobby Lobby last week. I used about 75% of one skein, knitting on size 6 and 8 needles so it would fit my giant head (and Hermione Granger hair). It is 86.4% wool, 5% mohair, and 8.6% acrylic - not the best yarn available, but it's cheap, comfy, and, despite being a bit fuzzy, really quite lovely.

The pattern is remarkably easy to knit, and for those of you who, like me, have a penchant for geekcraft, it is inspired by River, a character on the painfully short, cult-classic television series Firefly.

And yes, for those of you who noticed, I am knitting another hat, as previewed in the first picture. Another slouchy beret (a result of my finally having a 16" interchangeable cable ^.^), but a different pattern. I'm sure it will get a post, too, once it's finished and photographed.

Also for the more observant, you might have noticed my army medic bag in that first picture. Jason drove down to an army surplus store on Friday in search of rope, and of course I had to go along. These sort of places always have fantastic and obscure accessories for ridiculously cheap. This medic bad was about $8 new.

I also picked up another bag, rather unfortunately called a "military GI butt pack" for $6. This one is used, but the wear and tear adds a lot of charm, I think. I have plans to do some work on both, adding pockets and giving them a more steampunk and feminine feel. I'll post pictures when I feel they're finished.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Playlist Tuesday (A Work in Progress)

My, my, how time does fly. Yeah, I'm still alive. I keep meaning to post - about grad school, and the fun I have in Obsidian, adorable pictures of my pets, fantastical adventures with my husband and friends....But it seems I never finish writing the posts that I start. Anyway, we'll get around to all of that in due course.

Today, and perhaps most Tuesdays from now on, I'm here to talk about music. I don't feel like being chatty, so I'll keep this relatively brief. I just thought I would mention some of the fantastic sounds I've recently added to my playlists. I encourage you to check any of them out, but I will warn you - I have strange musical tastes. These aren't artists for mainstreamers.

Joanna Newsom's album The Milk-Eyes Mender
She has a voice you will either love or hate, but it is guaranteed to make you think, "WTF?" upon the first listen. The songs and lyrics are very whimsical and imaginative, which is probably one of the more prominent reasons I love her.

Mediaeval Baebes' album The Rose
These ladies sing song in old and middle English. It's a great album to listen to when you're curled up with a new fantasy novel. The song below is very haunting and makes me think of sirens luring beguiled sailors to their watery graves.

Phildel's EP Tales from the Moonsea
Like the group above, Phildel is a fantasy singer whose music goes well with stories of elves and dragons, but her sound is lighter and more playful than the Baebes'. In fact, it can be downright lullaby-esque.

Priscilla Ahn's album A Good Day
I've had this singer's song "Dream" on my (almost completely forgotten) Myspace profile for at least a year now. This is the typical, sweet sound I'm often listening to; calming and beautiful and filled with wonderment. ^.^

Well, that's that. Now you know what I've been listening to these past two weeks while I commute back and forth to school, mop the floor for the fifteenth time this week, cuddle with my puppies, go cycling with Jason, read, role-play online, or any other variety of activities that could use a good soundtrack.

Cheers, see ya soon.