29 July 2009

Get Rich Quick

The Baum Plan for Financial Independence: And Other Stories The Baum Plan for Financial Independence: And Other Stories by John Kessel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"Genre-blending," to me, usually means"genre+literary" (whatever "literary" means). But a lot of the blending in this collection is "genre + genre," as in the historical-crime/fantasy story "Every Angel is Terrifying," or the future-crime/sci-fi first movement of the Lunar Quartet, "The Juniper Tree."

Kessel's historical/literary mash-ups were brilliant, too: Orson Welles in a sci-fi story ("It's All True")--who'd have thought? The name and spirit of Tyler Durden carrying on in a lunar colony in the second movement of the Lunar Quartet, "Stories for Men." "Pride and Prometheus" is a Nebula award winner for good reason!

My favorite thing, from a technical standpoint, is the near-flawless worldbuilding in each story, done such that the story's obvious themes are never heavy-handed or preachy.

What made it one star short of five was the third movement of The Lunar Cycle. The cycle is comprised of 4 stories, one of them almost 80 pages long--and we all know how I feel about stories that go on longer than the average story by Etgar Keret or Lydia Davis. Oddly enough, I loved the longest story ("Stories for Men"). It was the significantly shorter story immediately after it, "Under the Lunchbox Tree." It's obviously supposed to be more low-key, but it still seems anticlimactic.

You can download the collection for free, from Small Beer Press, in multiple formats. I did, and I immediately knew I had to have the TPB.

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28 July 2009


Stories from two of my favorite authors appear in the same episode of PRI's Selected Shorts: Aimee Bender's "Drunken Mimi" and "Death Watch" (read by Bernadette Qugley) and Etgar Keret's "Your Man" and "Shooting Tuvia" (read by David Rakoff).

27 July 2009

Tough Love

I low-balled my wordcount for yesterday's critique group crucifixion session again. 820 words. Just couldn't get the story done, but I did bring something. Better to light an inch than curse the darkness after all, no?

I took bits of the next scene I'd planned and decided to staple it to the end of the scene I brought last time. An obvious decision that you just don't see when you're in the midst of a puke draft. Comments were as follows...

Story Win
  • I was a little clearer about the way the tech in this story works.
  • Tension was raised
  • Like last week, readers like the interaction between the protagonist and his sister.
  • I painted a clear picture of the protagonist being a little foolhardy, yet barreling ahead anyway.
  • Hm...I made a note of "Not a lot of words," but I've forgotten what that meant...?
Story Fail
  • Anything involving the color green and computer coding will always say The Matrix.
  • [I'm paraphrasing here] The form of the tech in my story, as I describe it, doesn't follow the function I describe. Or at least, I'm overcomplicating it.
  • [Edited to add] I evidently don't know how to spell the singular of lenses.
Thank God for the techies in my group, that's all I have to say! :)


Shortcomings Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Wow, if I'd taken a precious few different turns in life, I might have ended up exactly like the protagonist of this story, Ben. Definitely hit close to home.

This may be the first time, though, that I've come across a protagonist I didn't like. And I've read lots and lots of Carver (with whose work Tomine's is often compared). Yes, the ending of Ben's story is open to interpretation, but to me it's pretty clear. Based on what I read, what Ben sees at the end is what he has and maybe all he'll ever have.

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[Note to self: How come I've never used this feature from goodreads before???]

21 July 2009

Readin', Writin', Race

Two of my stories--"Good for the Gander" and "Tough Love"--have been listed in the 2009 Short Fiction by People of Color on the Carl Brandon Society wiki, and on the CBS's blog as well.

It's been a prompt for me to finally give some thought about readin', writin', & race.


Oh, wait--you were expecting me to have thought those thoughts and expound on them? Unfortunately, I'm not quite there yet. But, I have considered a few back-of-the-envelope points.

I've put off thinking about this topic since I started spewing words onto paper five or so years ago. I had horrible visions of writing some manifesto that starts "As an Asian-American writer, I..." or writing some story about some thirtysomething First Generation Flipino.

For years I've been hiding behind my beginner status. (You could make a good argument that I should keep doing just that!) "Just learn how to write and get to the race stuff later," I told myself. And to be honest, I never felt any real pressure to get to it. But not only did I feel some internal pressure, and it was a horrible push/pull situation. I subconsciously feared how much would be riding on writing "my "Filipino story." I was probably overthinking the whole thing. Thing is, growing up Filipino and Catholic instills a fear of fucking up like you wouldn't believe.

(or, "How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Race in My Writing Until I Had Something to Say")

The only thing I can offer in my defense is that you wouldn't have wanted to read any "Filipino story" I might've written 2-3 years ago. But as it happens, I'm working on a piece right now with Filipino characters. Not because of any pressure, nor to make any particular statement. I've got a yarn to spinl about certain characters who've grown up a certain way, who have made or will make choices about their life paths.

More to come later, maybe.

18 July 2009

Law Unto Myself, Part II

I'm seeing all sorts of Twitter users with actually "follow policies." I understand it, really I do. I get spammers, too. But I haven't read a follow policy yet that doesn't seem like so much overkill.

The simple act of telling myself "You are not going to waste time thinking about a Twitter policy" was enough to make my brain start generating ideas. Luckily, I stopped it cold before it could get any further than this.
Don's Twitter Follow Policy

I will follow you only if: you can at least fool me into thinking you're (a) not a bot and (b) tweeting about things I could maybe, possibly care about.

I will not follow you if: you really can't manage both of the simple things I've listed above.

I will block you if: I feel like it.
'Nuff said, isn't it?

17 July 2009

A Rare Chance to Be a Law Unto Myself

Not sure exactly when this started, but Blogger evidently lets you set a message on the comment form for your entries. Mine reads...
No words about civilized commenting behavior. Just a reminder that this blog is here to serve my freedom of speech, not yours!

I reserve the right to arbitrarily wield my moderation power like a child who just found his father's handgun.

So, whaddya say?
I know, it's not like I get a ton of comments around here, especially during the long, long period where this site was nothing but reposted tweets. But eventually, something I write will invite comment and when it does, I'll be waiting with my hand on the button like an FCC agent at an Andrew Dice Clay show.

14 July 2009

We Never Talk About My Brother

The newest edition to my all-time favorite books list is We Never Talk About My Brother by Peter S. Beagle, which is surprising given how long a lot of these pieces are. Remember all the Etgar Keret and Lydia Davis I'd read recently. But the pieces kept me engaged.

The reviews are everywhere. If you're a goodreads member, you can read some of my story-by-story status updates/reviews.

13 July 2009

Tough Love

Yesterday's biweekly critique group evisceration was more like a knuckle-rapping, since I was only able to bring the very next scene of my WIP, about 750 words long. So, it doesn't make sense for this entry to be very long :).

For the Win:
  • Did a good job portraying the protagonist's squeamishness at the DIY operation he was undergoing.
  • Did a good job portraying the sibling relationship between the protag and his sister.
  • A minor plot point that demonstrated my poor understanding of chemistry :(
  • A couple of viewpoint errors
  • Still not enough information for the (group) readers' tastes about what the protag is after. (It was 95% clear to the "tech guy" in our group, but after all, he's a "tech guy.")
I should continue with this piece but for today, I've got a contest entry to prep :).

11 July 2009

Torchwood: Children of Earth

There will be some vague spoilers. Read at your own risk!

io9 asked Is Torchwood Finally Becoming Better Than Doctor Who? I say yes, absolutely.

The writing on this five-part story arc is as tight as anything--anything--I've ever seen on TV. I know John Barrowman felt like Torchwood was being "punished" when the number of episodes for Series 3 was slashed from thirteen, but if it resulted in writing like this, then I'm all for it!

I'm still speechless from the whole thing. Yes, I did see some minor, minor plot problems but they were so easy to miss. I had to rewatch and rethink to find them because as a writer, you don't want to believe something could be so utterly perfect. I never thought I'd hear myself utter these words: The inconsistencies really don't matter.

And I'm not turned off by the darkness, either. This isn't Doctor Who after all. The nature of this alien threat is one order of magnitude more disturbing than Daleks wanting to exterminate the human race again. And this isn't Independence Day or Star Trek where the best parts of humanity shine in an extraterrestrial crisis. This is a story about the darker sides of "civilized" people. About the zone between hypocrisy and pragmatism, and the horror that often dwells there. And the terrible price of trying to take the moral high ground and failing.

This story was as apocalyptic as it could get without nuclear annihilation or zombies. Because it was about the death of souls.

You were warned about spoilers! So, I don't want to hear it.

I know a lot of fans are upset about Captain Jack's actions. I'm not big on Christ figures, but I've never seen it pulled off this brilliantly (not even Russell T. Davies's earlier attempt). Jack literally took the sins of the world (well, that of world governments) on himself, paying the price that they would have to pay otherwise.

You know, I'm going to stop for now, because I'm still struck dumb...

03 July 2009

Chapter XXXVI

Kinda like last year, I got some of the best presents a writer can get.

My favorite, I have to say, was the one I got for myself--the newest productivity tool. It's not tech. I finally got the Moleskine Planner cover I wanted from Renaissance Art, which is the most stylish hPDA case you could ever ask for!

Other presents included...

Two vintage Doctor Who novelisations: Earthshock by Ian Marter, published by Target and Doctor Who and the Day of the Daleks by Terrance Dicks, published by Pinnacle. The Pinnacle books were the ones with the cool introduction by Harlan Ellison.

Birthday love from family and friends via phone, email, snail-mail, messages in bottles, etc.

And as another present to myself, the opportunity to help the cause of highlighting the work of writers of color. Like me :)

Not a bad start, I daresay.

Kickin' It Old School

We've all been so proud of our blindness
No kindness to share
I used to cry for the lost
Until I had to turn away
Then I looked inside
Past the fool
And found some deeper words to say

-Chicago, "Cry for the Lost"
Since LoudTwitter is dead, I've shunted my Twitter feed over to a widget on the sidebar. Just as well, really. I've been feeling the itch to bust out of the 140-character mode and stretch a little.

We'll see how long it lasts.

01 July 2009

@Reflection's Edge

"Tough Love"

Shouldn't be surprised that the editor of the 'zine labeled this one, which had a working title of "Love Potion #10" as Fantasy/Romance. Needless to say, the romance writers in my critique group were overjoyed!