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The perfect writer’s retreat – for less than a UK author’s annual take
October 15, 2014 | 12:25 pm

Any writer who is not one of the obscenely, disgustingly, grotesquely rich fabrications of the Manhattan literary celebrity machine, like James Patterson (in actuality a Borg-like hive entity comprising one figurehead and numerous ghostwriting drones) and other signatories of the Authors United petition, will probably care about money. Care quite a lot. They may even have to care about keeping a roof over their head. Enter Techdwell, an Oregon-based company that is busy repurposing miniature high-tech dwellings originally destined for Haiti into housing for the urban poor - which just might include writers. Currently the focus of a plan to house...

How language maps your space
October 12, 2014 | 1:30 pm

ChineseEFPSA, the "journal of European psychological students," recently shared a paper that should make many writers sit up and take notice. Perhaps literally. Because it deals with how languages determine our perceptions of space, color, and other phenomena such as time, and how these can be changed by adopting the worldview coded into other languages. The paper, "The Influence of Our Native language on Cognitive Representations of Colour, Spatial Relations and Time," by Nicholas P. Sarantakis at Scotland's Glasgow Caledonian University, focuses chiefly on a review of available literature and experimental studies on the field. The author cites one study of relative spatial...

MFA creative writing graduates are (possibly) killing literature
October 8, 2014 | 2:25 pm

An ever-so-slightly authoritative critique of the whole system of creative writing courses and grants for writers has been handed down by Horace Engdahl, a Member of the Swedish Academy tasked with awarding the Nobel Prize for Literature. And he is, to put it mildly, not happy with the state of literature in general, and the warping effect that lavish financial support is having on it. In an interview with French publication La Croix, Engdahl condemns "a form of sclerosis in literary creation," which he attributes directly to "the perverse effects of the professionalization of the writer's vocation, linked to a system...

Grumpy Cat to get biography? No, it’s Jonathan Franzen!
October 2, 2014 | 12:25 pm

time-cover-franzen_customJonathan Franzen is not dead. It's sad news for the world of English letters, I know, but he is still alive, writing (presumably), and talking (when his foot is not wedged firmly in his tonsils). Sad news for Oprah too. And for XX-chromosome-bearers who have the temerity to decipher words. But Jonathan Franzen is, in fact, among the living. Why, oh why, then, has someone writen a literary biography about him? Why, oh whyer why, did somebody at Bloomsbury actually agree to publish it? And no, it's apparently not some Dunciad-style exercise devoted to immortalizing another overpromoted talentless mediocrity as the...

R.I.P. Eugie Foster
September 29, 2014 | 2:41 pm

Nebula Award-winning writer and editor Eugie Foster died on September 27th of respiratory failure after a long and hard-fought battle against aggressive cancer of the sinuses. Full details can be found on her blog, with a short obituary from her husband Matthew M. Foster, here. Eugie won the 2009 Nebula Award for Best Novelette for her novelette "Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast," and a whole series of other awards for her work as writer and editor. She was also a regular participant in conventions and science fiction/fantasy events. In the course of her struggle and treatment, Eugie...

Ellora’s Cave sues Dear Author over ‘defamatory’ blog post
September 26, 2014 | 9:59 pm

Ellora's Cave Well, that was unexpected. The saga of Ellora’s Cave has been chronicled over the last few months, and especially over the last few weeks, on various e-book blogs I read. For example, from The Passive Voice: Ellora’s Cave The mysterious case of the missing royalty checks from Ellora’s Cave More Ellora’s Cave troubles… Cat Grant Gives Away Her Unreverted Ellora’s Cave Titles And those are just from the last week or so. Authors...

Civilization began when humans invented fire – and storytelling
September 26, 2014 | 12:25 pm

For a writer, it's heartening to learn that the first invention to set the human race on its triumphal march towards global ecocide - fire - is intimately linked to the development of storytelling. According to a study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), and widely reported in Science Magazine and elsewhere, "comparison of 174 day and nighttime conversations among the Ju/’hoan (!Kung) Bushmen of southern Africa, supplemented by 68 translated texts," suggests a major dichotomy between daytime talk and nighttime banter around the campfire, with the latter given...

Follow the Scott trail through Scotland
September 26, 2014 | 10:25 am

With interest in Scotland and Scottish culture still riding high post the Scottish independence referendum, here's welcome information for anyone wishing to delve into the background and landmarks of one of Scotland's greatest writers, Sir Walter Scott. Visit Scotland, "Scotland's National Tourism Organization," has put together a Sir Walter Scott Itinerary to take visitors around the sites and settings most associated with Scott and his novels, starting with his slightly fantastic creation of Abbotsford, the house which dramatized the historical and Romantic themes in stone and in a huge collection of curios. Then there's Sir Walter Scott’s Courtroom, the Sheriff Court at Selkirk...

Scottish literature after the referendum
September 21, 2014 | 2:29 pm

The referendum on Scottish independence gave Scottish literature, and Scottish culture, greater prominence as a separate force in the English-speaking world than at any time in recent decades. Arguably, that's no less than the post-war generations of writers that have numbered Iain Banks, Alasdair Gray, Edwin Morgan, and Irvine Welsh deserves. But the dissipation of all the hope and optimism of the Yes campaign on September 18th, and the recriminations afterwards against the British establishment, are darkening the mood and cbecking a lot of that impetus. Alasdair Gray himself described the result in Scotland's The Herald as "a great pity"...

Inside the Swedish Writers’ Union
September 20, 2014 | 10:22 am

While at this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival, I met with the vice chair of the Swedish Writers' Union (Sveriges Författarförbund), Sweden's formal and officially sanctioned support institution for writers, in the context of discussions on official support for writers. The Swedish Writers' Union is "the central professional organisation for writers and literary translators in Sweden," as their materials state. "We safeguard the economic and moral interests of our members by defending freedom of expression and of the press, and keeping up to date with copyright stipulations and the laws regulating copyright." This is the feedback they gave me on how their body operates. "To become a...

Step on up, Lovecraftians, for the S.T. Joshi Endowed Research Fellowship
September 17, 2014 | 2:25 pm

An interesting opportunity has arisen for horror, dark fiction, and Lovecraftian writers and aficionados: The S.T. Joshi Endowed Research Fellowship, "for research relating to H.P. Lovecraft, his associates, and literary heirs," is being offered by Brown University. The Fellowship "was established by The Aeroflex Foundation and Hippocampus Press," and is "named for S. T. Joshi, Brown alumnus (’80, MA ’82)  and prominent Lovecraft scholar," and is designed to support a six-week research period at the John Hay Library, "home to the largest collection of H. P. Lovecraft materials in the world," with a $2,500 stipend. "Located in historic Providence, Rhode Island...

Styluses in the cheap seats
September 17, 2014 | 10:25 am

IMG_20140916_180514As I reported a while ago, premium brand pen manufacturers are at last catching on to the message that styluses are an increasingly popular, and stylish, commodity. Luckily for those of us not in the One Percent, though, they also seem to be improving at the bottom end of the market, with increasingly cheaper and better choices available for the normal user. I'm not getting paid anything for endorsing these, because who would do that for such cheap items? Rather, they're just stylus options that I found outclassed the opposition as anything other than status symbols. One option is the Bic...