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R.I.P. Gabriel García Márquez: You’ll believe in magic … realism
April 18, 2014 | 4:04 pm

The internet has been alive with tributes to Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014), the Colombian Nobel Prize-winning master of magic realism who has just died in Mexico aged 87. The 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature citation cited him as "a rare storyteller, richly endowed with a material from imagination and experience which seems inexhaustible ... who combines the copious, almost overwhelming narrative talent with the mastery of the conscious, disciplined and widely read artist of language." Magic realism, with its imaginative heightening of experience through the fusion of history and fantasy, erudition and caprice, surrealism and reportage, is often credited to Jorge...

If you write, start planning to attend GenCon Indy this August
April 15, 2014 | 7:20 pm

GEDC1339 When I attended GenCon Indy for TeleRead last year, I interviewed a number of self-publishing authors, game industry execs, and other people with interesting stories to tell. I’ve posted a few of these, but life has been so busy over the last few months that I have had a hard time getting around to doing most of them. I’m going to try to change that in the weeks to come. I’ve got another interview transcribed and posting later tonight. That being said, it’s worth noting that if you’re wanting to come to GenCon in Indianapolis this year,...

Happy belated birthday Samuel Beckett
April 14, 2014 | 2:33 pm

GodotLoadI hope no one's going to object to me commemorating the anniversary of Samuel Beckett's birthday a day late. After all, the great pessimist himself would be first to expect such a thing. And his original birth date was Friday the 13th. Samuel Beckett was born in Dublin on Good Friday, April 13th, 1906 - one of those not-so-happy coincidences that seem to have attended and defined him all his life. A keen sportsman as a youth, Beckett was not only a national-level university cricketer, but also attracted the attention of a series of women through his life, including Peggy Guggenheim...

Picking at the scabs: Are freebie writers blacklegs?
April 10, 2014 | 2:34 pm

rochester-labor-day-parade-1910-1Scab is a pretty emotive term, as well as a nasty thing to have. Strikebreakers, scabs, and blacklegs of all kinds have been demonized in the tradition and folklore of organized labor for centuries, as turncoats and betrayers of their own kind. And now we have one academic writer claiming that writers who write for free are scabs. Yasmin Nair, writer, academic, activist, and commentator, wrote her original piece under the emphatic title "Scabs: Academics and Others Who Write for Free." And she does at least know whereof she speaks: "Over the years, I’ve steadily embarked upon a career of freelance...

The midlist ghetto: Where no writer need go again?
April 9, 2014 | 5:11 pm

in-open-spacesThe Rumpus, a.k.a. "The online urban hipster coffee shop" (what? you mean you've never heard of "the online urban hipster coffee shop"? Where have you been wasting your time, loser? Starbucks?), just ran a piece by midlist author Russell Rowland on being a midlist author, entitled "Solidly Mid-List." It's that simple. And it's also a very good guide to, and track record for, the career of a midlist author, and where you go to get onto the midlist - if you choose to go that way instead of landing up there thanks to some awful mistake. "What happened? How did I...

Scandal: Writers want paying for work
April 9, 2014 | 3:04 pm

dollarsign1.jpgThe Nation recently ran a post all about writers' impudent, presumptuous demand that they should be paid for writing. In the journal, Julia Carrie Wong outlines the work of Manjula Martin,  whose blog Who Pays Writers? more accurately described who pays writers what, with very regular updates on publications accepting paid contributions, and their rates - from the writers' perspectives. The blog then led to Scratch Magazine, "a digital magazine for writers" covering "writing + money + life." Wong puts an ideological spin on all this, decrying "capitalism’s effect on journalism," but arguably capitalism has been around all through the history...

Six reasons to use a pen name
April 6, 2014 | 12:08 pm

mynameispenname When an author publishes a book, they need to make a decision before the book hits the market. Do they want to use a pen name? Here are six reasons why a writer may want to use a pen name. 1. You write erotica: There is nothing wrong with writing in the genre, but writers may want to choose a pen name because they don’t want close friends or relatives to know. They may want to hide that book from dear old dad. 2. You write under different genres: If an author writes under several genres, they may want to use a different name...

Book editors really do edit books. Really! They’ll tell you so themselves!
March 30, 2014 | 3:18 am

find-an-editor1What does it say about what people think of you if you have to write a lengthy editorial insisting that, no, really, you actually do do your job? That’s how a piece by book editor Barry Harbaugh in The New Yorker comes off. Entitled, “Yes, Book Editors Edit,” it insists that, despite Amazon claiming otherwise, book editors at major publishers actually do edit books. The fact that this piece had to be written in the first place possibly says more than does the entire piece itself. Especially since there are just a few problems with it. ...

Porter Anderson: The authors are revolting
March 25, 2014 | 2:25 pm

Well, perhaps that's a little too strong. But veteran ebook/publishing journalist Porter Anderson, over on Thought Catalog, has penned a very interesting and challenging update to his earlier interview with Hugh Howey on author advocacy. It examines the phenomenon of: "A New Voice in the Book World: The Author." Porter Anderson's argument is simply that digital disruption in the book world has led directly to author empowerment - to authors transitioning from passive media assets - albeit sometimes highly volatile ones that required careful handling - into active agents and even competitors of their erstwhile publishing elders and betters. "Of all...

Neil Gaiman says scared is good
March 22, 2014 | 10:45 am

Bulgarian writer and New Yorker by adoption Maria Popova picked up on a "semi-secret" evening event on the literature of terror held by Neil Gaiman at TED's 30th anniversary event, TED 2014 in Vancouver - certainly secret enough to keep his name off the official speaker list. However, she detailed the whole thing in her much-followed blog Brain Pickings, including a recording reproduced with permission, and transcripts, where Gaiman speaks of the fascination of fear. "Technology does nothing to dispel the shadows at the edge of things," Gaiman says. And as just one instance of the value of tackling dark things,...

Revisiting the Magic Mountain in Davos
March 18, 2014 | 2:25 pm

Davos in Switzerland is one of the cities lucky - or unfortunate- enough to be canonized by a 20th-century classic of intellectual and cultural crisis. Thanks to The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann put Davos on the map alongside James Joyce's Dublin, T.S. Eliot's London, Andrei Bely's Petersburg and Franz Kafka's Prague as one of the capital cities of early modernism, and helped its transition from a 19th-century health spa for tuberculosis patients to its modern status as a mecca for high-level [pun intended] intellectual, political, and economic debate. At a conference there last week, I had a chance to touch...

A whale of a tale: Why off-line research matters
March 12, 2014 | 5:30 pm

spermwhalemouthA long time ago, in some book of weird tales, I ran across the story of a man who had, allegedly, been swallowed alive by a whale, and later retrieved alive from its stomach. He was supposedly catatonic for two weeks, then finally able to resume his duties, with the side effect that his skin had been bleached white by exposure to the whale’s digestive juices. Some ministers used this tale as “proof” that the Biblical story of Jonah was plausible. But one fellow—Edward B. Davis, Associate Professor of Science and History at Messiah College—heard the story and got...