Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hemingway's Six Words, or, The Advent Of The Really Short Story

So back in the day, Ernest Hemingway wrote an entire story in just six words:

"For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn."

He claimed this was his best work ever. I think it's good, also, because it operates on so many levels. What Papa put into his story is almost haunting. You find yourself not wanting to know "the rest of the story". It's amazing and frightening all at once. In October of '06, Wired magazine challenged a slew of other published SF&F genre authors to accomplish the same task. Publish your best work in just six words. A lot of the stories are wonderful ideas. Some are funny and make you laugh, others are ironic and make you shake your head, others still are just plain mysterious. A few don't make any sense at all, unless I guess, you are the one who wrote them. Here are a random selection of some of the oddities and some of my favorites:

Vacuum collision. Orbits diverge. Farewell, love.
- David Brin
Automobile warranty expires. So does engine.
- Stan Lee
Longed for him. Got him. Shit.
- Margaret Atwood
From torched skyscrapers, men grew wings.
- Gregory Maguire
With bloody hands, I say good-bye.
- Frank Miller
Epitaph: Foolish humans, never escaped Earth.
- Vernor Vinge
Easy. Just touch the match to
- Ursula K. Le Guin
Nevertheless, he tried a third time.
- James P. Blaylock
Dinosaurs return. Want their oil back.
- David Brin
Osama’s time machine: President Gore concerned.
- Charles Stross
Cryonics: Disney thawed. Mickey gnawed. Omigawd.
- Eileen Gunn
It cost too much, staying human.
- Bruce Sterling
Commas, see, add, like, nada, okay?
- Gregory Maguire
Corpse parts missing. Doctor buys yacht.
- Margaret Atwood
I win lottery. Sun goes nova.
- Steven Meretzky
The baby’s blood type? Human, mostly.
- Orson Scott Card
I’m your future, child. Don’t cry.
- Stephen Baxter
Dorothy: "Fuck it, I'll stay here."
- Steven Meretzky
Will this do (lazy writer asked)?
- Ken MacLeod

So my challenge to everyone (all two of you!) who read this: Give me your own six word story. I want to see what you can do. Make it exciting, adventureful, sad, incomprehensible, whatever! Just have fun and write one. And in the meantime, I will try to come up with my own as well. C'mon it should be good times, nay?

"A short saying oft contains much wisdom." - Sophocles (496 BC - 406 BC)

Let the games begin!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

LibraryThing Early Reviewers: A Regular Feature & The Book From The Sky by Robert Kelly

So, through my account at the cataloguing and social website LibraryThing, I have become part of a program they have with many publishers; namely the Early Reviewers. So basically, in my agreement with them, I receive free Advanced Reader Copies of books occasionally, in exchange for a review of said books. Pretty good deal if you ask me. LibraryThing gets several (or many, in some cases) different books and you pick which ones you would be interested in reviewing. Then, if you are lucky, they send you one from that month's selection. Simple as that. They try to pick out something similar to other books in your inventory, hopefully finding something you might like.

Anyway, so while I also post these reviews to LibraryThing, as required; I am also going to post them here. After all, this is my book-y blog! So... enjoy. This should be a somewhat regular column. And now, on to The Book From The Sky by Robert Kelly.

The newest book from the acclaimed poet Robert Kelly, is a sort of science fiction novel, apparent influences ranging from John C. Wright to Fyodor Dostoevsky, but most heavily influenced by his own work as a poet and his self-proclaimed poetry genre of 'deep image'.

The book is a tale of young Billy, taken from his home and family by, if not malevolent, then at the very least, morally ambiguous aliens. Vivisected while conscious by these creatures, Billy has is internal organs replaced by the most eclectic of random objects; from two grey squirrels where his lungs were, to an alarm clock for his bladder. Apparently this does not kill him. In this process Billy is spun off into two entities, the simulacrum retaining Billy’s organs and thoughts and Billy himself left deposited on another world, eventually to make his way back home. Somewhere down the line, a third incarnation - Brother William, leaves with Billy “The Book From The Sky”, a mysterious pamphlet guiding Billy further on his examination of his self and his reality.

The tale is told in a variety of open language prose and poetry, very much free verse. I’m unsure if part of this is meant intentional, as aspects of the poetry, or just because this is an uncorrected proof copy I’ve been reading, but the flow and punctuation in somewhat broken. I’m assuming the former, although having never read Kelly’s previous and numerous volumes of poetry, I can’t be sure.

There’s a lot of beautiful imagery here, from the description of his young friend Eileen at the beginning of the book to his cloud gazing, later on the strange planet. However, a lot of the book is confusing and muddled, also. As Billy delves deeper into what it means to be himself, I was often left unsure of what is real and what is not. Maybe this is the intention of the author, maybe it is my non-classically educated mind missing the obvious. Either way, though, the book is worth the read (maybe), if only for the images themselves. (3.5/10)

"People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like." Abraham Lincoln (in a book review of his own) (1809-1865)

So, see you next time, folks, ON..... LT Early Reviewers!!!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Stephen King And Comics? A New Love Affair

Stephen King has been flirting with Marvel Comics the past couple of years working on three mini-series (7, 5 & 6 issues respectively) based on his Dark Tower series of novels. The first was called "The Gunslinger Born" and retold the early tales from Roland's life in DT:4 Wizard & Glass. The second series, "The Long Road Home", all original material taking place after the events of DT:4 and before DT:1 (the events of 4 are a flashback to Roland's youth). "Treachery", more new material debuts in September.

With the overwhelming success and beautiful, amazing artwork, King has been branching out. Planned also for September is a mini-series of 5 issues based on "The Stand", King fans' longstanding favorite post-apocalyptic novel, featuring the ultimate bad guy, Randall Flagg, the walkin' dude, the wandering stranger... the dark man. Should be excellent from what we've seen so far from marvel.

Now, just released and created specifically for small screen, is the new animated comic "N". Based on an unpublished short story from an upcoming collection, "N" is tale of a psychologist driven mad and the "thin-ness" between worlds. I've only seen the first 5 episodes so far, but man, has it turned out nice. Superior production values. Planned are 25 episodes, one each day M-F until the end of August. Should be a treat. I've embedded the player below if you want to take a peek. Each episode should show up as the days progress and are only about 2 minutes a piece, so not a huge time waster. If you watch, be sure to start with episode one, they preset to the newest one. You may have to watch one 15 sec. commercial every 5 episodes or so. Sorry 'bout that!

Given the nature and success of King's film versions of his books (the films being generally terrible) comics seem to be the way to go for him. With the exception of his dramatic, non-supernatural movies (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) the rest of his works translate very poorly to film. Christine anyone? Or when the source material is so abandoned as to make it unwatchable (The Lawnmower Man, please!)? Comics may be right up King's alley. The artwork and dedication Marvel has put into the translations have done them justice indeed, the fantastical elements are just so much believable when done this way. Bravo!

I definitely hope to see more from Marvel & King over the coming years.