In recent years, young adult fiction has morphed from Fear Street thrillers and gothic romances into books that transcend age. From books like The Hunger Games to The Book Thief, young adult books have attracted the notice of critics and people way too old to be shopping in a section that also peddles Gossip Girl novels.
I myself enjoy the Chaos Walking Trilogy and Leviathon and recommend them to people who like dark science fiction and steam punk, respectively. I also fervently recommend Un Lun Dun by China Mieville. I’ve mentioned Mieville before and he’s one of my favorite writers. He’s a bit tricky to recommend whole-heartedly however. His writing style can swing wildly between the gritty and fantastical, the hyper-descriptive and the dry and monochromatic. Most of his books end with the reader being both depressed and in awe.
Un Lun Dun is less depressing, but just as fantastic as his other works. It’s Mieville playing nice. While there are moments of darkness and despair, for the most part Mieville is not trying to crush all of your hopes and dreams. What he has done, however, is create a fantasy work that is fundamentally about thumbing your nose at convention.
And this isn’t just the theme of the novel, although Mieville is less than subtle about his anger at politicians and the businesses that drive them. The very structure of the novel tweaks the nose of every fantasy trope. Everything from the protagonist to the central quest she embarks on is a big wet raspberry at the cliches of the genre. The hero isn’t what you expect, the villains are monstrous in surprisingly realistic ways, and the world they inhabit is an original and novel place.
This is a good place to start with Mieville, a way to see his extraordinary imagination at work with less of the nightmare-tinged despair of Perdido Street Station.
A billion stars or something.
With yesterday’s announcement, I’m already feeling overwhelmed with the amount of tasks I have ahead of me. In no particular order they are:
- Come up with a title.
- Design a cover.
- Find out how to code a table of contents and then do that.
- Re-edit the stories over and over again until I can publish them without some sense of shame.
- Organize the stories into an order that makes some kind of sense.
- Write an introduction.
- Work my way through the publishing process, which is most likely going to include a lot of html debugging.
Actually…now that I see it all written out like that, it doesn’t seem that bad. It even looks potentially doable. Except for the part about coming up with a title. That’s never been a strong point for me. As an example, I spent more than five minutes with the title of this blog entry and I’m still not happy with it.
But everything else, I could definitely get that down by Friday night. Assuming that I don’t get distracted by things like bad television shows or blog entries or my other job or stuff like that.
So…I’m going to go down the list and knock it out. Put at least two down a day until Friday and it’s showtime.
And I’ll try not throw up from a huge mix of anxiety and nervousness and nausea.
I’ve decided on something that is, probably, a bit stupid. I’m never going to publish my book if I keep giving myself far and away deadlines. I’ll just keep pushing it back and pushing it back until eventually I’m an old man with no friends and no book and homeless on the street.
So…I’ve decided to give myself a truly unreasonable deadline to finish my book. After all, I’m the boss and bosses are supposed to be unreasonable tyrants who expect far too much of their employees.
And I want my book to be out in the marketplace by no later than next Friday. That’s right, I’m sending my collection of short stories out into the wild in less than a week.
With any luck, I’ll actually be able to follow through on that and you’ll be able to purchase it for your Kindle through Amazon on Saturday.
As scientists discover more about the Universe, the hard and fast rules of physics seem to be less so. The ironclad constants are not so constant, particles can both exist and not exist at the same time, and it turns out God does, occasionally, play dice with the universe. There are theories now that say that we exist in one of many pocket universes, each one existing by a different set of laws. These universes that would be beyond what we can possibly imagine.
We are too bound by the physical laws of this world to conceptualize something completely and utterly different. It’s the same problem when we try and imagine what an alien looks like. We give them two eyes, a nose and a mouth. We can’t help but imagine that whatever lives on another world must, fundamentally, resemble us in some fashion. Really, they could have fifteen noses on the soles of their tentacles which are connected to an amorphous blob made entirely of silicates and lumpy diamonds.
The fact that we have trouble conceiving alien life within our own universe doesn’t bode well for what we think another universe might have in store for us. There could be nameless wonders that defy all description; things so beyond our ken that their very existence can break rational thought. Even the idea that there could be other universes besides our own begs the thought; what eldritch things lurk beyond our own space?
I’m the kind of person who has a huge amount of trouble getting started. I’ll spend hours on the computer and it’s only as the sun sets that I’ll start working on a story. Once I get started, I can churn out two thousand words without breaking a sweat. It’s just that hump I have to get over to start working.
Today, I resorted to drastic measures; I used Freedom. It’s a wonderful program that turns off your internet and won’t let you turn it back on without going through the trouble of restarting your computer. Usually I set it for two hours and manage to get a blog entry (or two) out of it.
This time, I shut off the internet for three hours. By removing the biggest obstacle to my unproductivity, I actually started to get things done. I’ve got a new story going and I wrote this blog entry that you’re reading. I just wished that I had the ability to do that without putting a kibosh on the internet. I wish I had the innate ability to say, “I’m going to do some work now” and then bam, I’d be doing work.
At the very least, I’m glad a workaround exists, otherwise I’d never do anything of note and I’d just spend my days getting drooly and vacant-eyed as I stare at my computer screen. Does anyone out in the ether have any suggestions for getting work done?
I’ve been reading Necronomicon, a massive collection of Lovecraft’s stories. Lovecraft has always informed what I write, even before I started reading his stories. He influenced the writers who influenced me, Stephen King in particular. And when I got into my big Lovecraft kick right after high school, I began to make a couple of (terrible) attempts at writing about elder gods and eldritch horrors with noneuclidian features.
And though I stopped writing anything overtly Lovecraftian, ancient evils from beyond time will creep into my stories, those nameless horrors that can’t be described with human language. So in a lot of ways, I respect that curmudgeonly, crazy bastard. Without him, I wouldn’t be the writer I am (for better or for worse).
So when I read the first story in the collection, I was a little disappointed. There was a great idea at the center of it, but it was very short. It wasn’t really very well fleshed out. There are hints of what he would do later in his stories; creatures from the abyss, indescribable monsters that are so close to human, ancient ruins and crazed protagonists. On the whole though, it’s a cool idea without enough story or backstory. And it made me happy. While I’m nowhere near his equal in the things he does well, at the very least, I’m stumbling the very same way he did in those early years.
It’s comforting to see that because I can see that he overcame it, which means (hopefully) I can too.
Today, I nearly set fire to an ear of corn.
It wasn’t on purpose. I generally like my corn non- carbonized. As I’ve mentioned in a few other blog posts, my cooking skills are not quite up to par. So I’ll do things like roll corn cob in some butter and throw it in a pan that’s way too hot and then the fire alarm just won’t stop shrieking and my lunch is ruined.
Part of the reason is that I’m strangely reluctant to learn a new recipe. When I do, I hold onto it and never let go. I’ll make it and remake it until it tastes the way I want it and then I’ll never think about it again. Everytime I decide that I’m going to learn something new, it takes me a couple of days just to think of something to try. I’m overwhelmed by the options.
Do I want to make a dinner or a dessert? What about breakfast? And what kind of meat? And should there be meat? Meat can be a pain to work with. Maybe I’ll do something simple. What about eggs? Which is how I end up making scrambled eggs for the fifth day in a row.
Or I’ll do something really easy like, say, try and cook cook. I’ll flip through the recipes, decide they’re either too much work or involve ingredients and tools I don’t have so I do a half-assed job trying to cobble together the easiest recipes. Sometimes this turns out ok, like with my fried bananas. Other times, I end up with a flaming cob.
What I need is someone to sporadically tell me, “Dylan, make this.” And then I’ll have to learn how to do it. That would cut out the indecisiveness out of the equation and then I could just focus on doing a good job. Or I could just keep eating ramen.
There comes short and brutal little periods where I am incapable of writing anything.
Words don’t come, they stay locked away or they just never existed.
This is a problematical thing when I’ve decided that I have to write every single day, whether I want to or not.
So I have drag each word out in painful extractions that take too long time. Here comes one word, followed by a second ripped out from some pulpy deep-rooted place. One by one they come out and I line them up on the white page.
It’s writing at its most unpleasant; where it’s all I can do to keep the sentences going. There’s no joy in it; just a mechanical process to get this task done. It’s writing where I keep glancing at the word count.
The only good thing is that I can be done very soon. I think I’ve written almost enough to satisfy the requirements I’ve set up for myself during this month.
And we’re done.
Emily and I had decided that we were going to get Chinese food one night. That, of course, meant that we had to go to Chinatown. By the time we got there, we were so hungry that we just lurched into the first restaurant we saw and that’s how we discovered Empire Garden.
When you first walk into Empire Garden, it’s like stepping into a dingy movie theater lobby. And then you go upstairs. Now, I haven’t done much (any) research, but I heard it used to be a theater before it was converted into a restaurant and I can believe that. There are murals and mirrors and massive high ceilings and it’s gaudy and wonderful all at once. It’s one of the most fantastic looking places I’ve been in.
I’ve only gone to dim sum a few times, but Empire Garden’s food is above average compared to the other places I’ve been. We’ve been there five or six times now and the food has always been good. I’m not crazy about their chicken buns, but the yellow bean and pork buns were awesome. The duck was also pretty good.
They also have a bewildering array of mixed drinks with things like the ubiquitous scorpion bowl and a whole host of other tropical drinks in tiki head cups. There are also a couple of Chinese beers (like Tsingtao)
And here comes the best part; generally speaking, we’ll spend about $35 on a meal there. That’s including the tip and enough food and drink to make sure that we have trouble walking home.
It’s cheap, it’s good and the atmosphere is old style insanely over the top. It’s only a block away from the Chinatown station on the Orange line (located at 690 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111), so go check it out.