Friday, May 09, 2008

The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of

An interesting book. Going in, I'd though I'd chosen another history book - like I'd wanted - only to find I was once again reading a series of essays connecting the real world to the worlds of SF. However, Disch's book is much more coherent than Hartwell's. Half the time I wasn't sure where Hartwell was going in his ramblings, though I was sure there had to be a point in there somewhere. Though occasionally it felt a little like Disch strayed a bit from time to time, I have to say, the man had some seamless transitions. He does stay on topic in relation to his chapter title, and that's really what counts.

Though I still want a history of SF, mostly to give me more structure in terms of SF's development through its authors and over time, this did offer some semblance of order given though the topics and time frames Disch decided to discuss. My favorite chapter had to be "How Science Fiction Defused the Bomb" in regards to the atomic bomb panic and radioactive possibilities. It's just that it's still a relative topic today, which is ironic because when Disch wrote the book, the scare had already died down and everyone learned to live with the bomb. We still live with it, but it's become a fear yet again and it's still bringing up monster movies (at least, atomic testing is one of the many theories beind the Cloverfield monster).

Throughout the book, I kept wondering what Disch would have to say if he'd written this today or even a year or two ago. Even though I consider 1998 to still be semi-recent (nevermind that it's already a decade ago), the book felt dated. I guess technically it is, another reason it would have been neat to see DIsch's thoughts on the now. Especially since NASA is still in full swing, SF/F movies have taken a firmer foothold in Hollywood than ever (and most of them directly from books), Star Trek is still loved, so much so that a new movie is coming out in 2009, computer graphics have become more fantastic than ever (often to my annoyance, in fact), and so forth.

The chapters were easy to get sucked into, the connections Disch made between SF and other areas of life/the world from religion to politics to wigged-out people committing suicide in the name of God-knows-what, all rather solid with great examples. Disch lived through most if it, I'm sure, and whatever he didn't deal with directly, he did his homework, something I admire because I'm certainly not as willing or likely to do so.

I'm not too sure I agree with him on Poe as the head of the SF bonanza, but he has a commendable argument. I can see his points and on several occasions, pulled out my fat, leatherbound everything-Poe book and read some of the pieces Disch referenced. I admit, I haven't yet had the chance to read all of Poe's work, so Disch has a one-up on me there, I'm sure. Maybe as I continue reading, I'll start to agree more. Still, I think there were too many before Poe that could collectively take the slot of parent(s) of SF, but again, I'm fuzzy on all my dates, so more research on my part would be needed. Now I just need a list of authors and to get motivated...

As a whole, a very good read and insightful, especially concerning the past. The present and future are easier for me to spot and connect (obviously) so seeing past events coupled with SF influence through a writer like Disch was enjoyable and a better read than Hartwell by far.

Currently: Dreaming of floating away and sleeping

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Improbability Drive, Activated!

*squeak, honk, erk, eek, boink!*


Right, now that normalily has been restored (I have The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on the brain - and on my desk over there so, you know), here's the blog entry I meant to write several days ago, but keep forgetting because I swear if I don't write this stuff down, I forget it.

I should invest in some Post-It notes.

Anywho, I finished up Word Painting and I have to say, Dr. Wendland chose a perfect book when it comes to working on description. Admittedly, my description still needs some work, but that's beside the point. McClanahan really does touch on every aspect of description and includes so many useful exercises, it's great. I haven't really had the chance - okay, you know what? That's a lie. I've had chances, I just don't use them properly. I need to reorganize my time and stop screwing around, though this week I haven't even really had time to screw around, but next week I only work 8 hours (down from 34 - how the hell that happens I don't entirely know) so I've got plenty of time on my hands.

Ok, moving on. I plan to review this book, but when I do, it's getting 5 stars, all the way. I'm really glad to have found it and as time goes on, I'm going to go through it again, one chapter at a time, much slower, maybe devoting an entire month to a chapter, and working on all the exercises, taking my time and searching for the proper and special naming of things (which I feel is my biggest weakness. When it comes to scent and sound and touch, well, those I just forget, moreso during this story because half the time my guys are all wrapped up with oxygen masks and full protective bodysuits). Well, almost all the exercises anyway. A few I don't think I could do because I'd get distracted. Any that have to do with music at least. For example, there's one that suggests walking about 6 blocks or so noting details as you go, first with one type of music and then again with a different type to see what differences you see. That wouldn't ever happen because any time I walk around outside for any period of time with music, my mind wanders to one story or another and it's like a switch going on in an idea factory. Ka-chink! Ideas rolling down the conveyor belt and dumping into buckets for later use.

That will be good though, to take my time and work on this and that in better detail, revising and practicing and tweaking. I can use my ridiculous fanfic as practice as well, one of the reasons I decided to keep it going, as stupid as it likely is.

The point is that the book is useful, extremely helpful, and anyone in need of descriptive help should look into it. Not sure what else is on the market, but this isn't getting replaced by anything else anytime soon. In fact, it's slotted in my brain as a potential class when I eventually do my little module thing before graduating, right beside idea generation and name creation.

The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of is my final book, but I plan on writing about that after I finish, which should be too long as I've only got one chapter left, except it'll probably take me until the final deadline to write about that since I freaking forget everything.

Really should get some Post-Its...


Currently: An octopus?